Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 full review

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We got our hands on the new Microsoft Surface Laptop 5, and we’re going to evaluate its new features in comparison to the previous generation, although the design line and proportions remain the same.

The main updates are found in the hardware section, including the Intel i5-1235U and i7-1255U, and LPDDR5X RAM. This brings about improvements in connectivity for peripherals. The screen also sees upgrades with Gorilla Glass protection and improved speakers.

Exterior design

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 maintains the same design as its predecessor, the Laptop 4, with the main difference being its size. We tested the 13.5-inch model, which is compact and portable, measuring only 14.5mm in thickness and weighing 1.2kg. The screen borders are not optimally utilized, but its size is equivalent to a 14-inch screen. The entire finish is in matte black aluminum, which tends to attract fingerprints.

From the first glance, the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5’s elegant and minimalist design is apparent with symmetrical and softly rounded corners, keeping the brand logo in the center of the screen lid. This year, the lid has become sturdier due to the incorporation of Gorilla Glass 5. The hinge system consists of anchors at the ends that open the screen backwards, without touching the ground.

The grille to expel hot air is partially located below the screen, meaning that only a small portion of the air affects the panel. Moving onto the base of the laptop, it is simple with no air intake and only four small support feet, integrated into the rear. The finish of the lower edges has an inward slope, pleasing to the eye, but can be slightly uncomfortable, particularly when placing the charging adapter in the Surface Connect port since it is partially hidden.

We opened the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 to confirm that the wide screen borders with 11mm on the sides and top edge, where the webcam and microphones are located, as well as 15mm on the bottom edge are present. It would have been spectacular for the design if the screen and its borders had rounded corners, although a square shape is preferable for usability purposes.

The keyboard area of the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 is well utilized and clean, but the touchpad could have been a bit larger. Since this laptop is not convertible, using a stylus or touch input may be a bit more challenging than it would be on a 2-in-1 device that can function as a tablet. However, adding such functionality would blur the lines between the pure definition of a laptop.

Ports and network connectivity

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 features some new additions in terms of ports and network connectivity, thanks to the improvement in the PCIe lanes of the CPUs and chipset.

On the right side, we will find the Surface Connect port, while on the left side, we have a USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A port, a USB-C Thunderbolt 4 port, and a 3.5mm combo jack for audio and microphone.

The number of ports remains minimal, with the Surface Connect port providing data, video, and device charging. This year, the addition we had requested for the Laptop 4 has been implemented – a Thunderbolt 4 port at 40 Gbps that enables us to connect to a regular interface for data, video, or charging without requiring an adapter. Furthermore, we can expand the device’s interfaces with a dongle that is likely to be less expensive than the Surface Connect one.

The Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 wireless card is still present in the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 for network connectivity, the second version launched that also supports Bluetooth 5.1. However, it’s time for an upgrade to Wi-Fi 6E and BT 5.3, like most new generation laptops. This card supports 2×2 connections on dual-band, providing 2.4 Gbps in 5 GHz and 574 Mbps in 2.4 GHz.

Screen, touch pen, and sound

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5’s 13.5-inch panel is based on IPS PixelSense technology, offering a native resolution of 2256x1504p and a 3:2 aspect ratio. It has an ambient sensor for automatic brightness adjustment. We are reviewing this year’s version to determine if the panel is as good as the 15-inch one in terms of calibration.

With a density of 201 ppi, it matches the 15-inch version, but the refresh rate remains at 60 Hz. Ideally, it should be increased to at least 120 Hz to provide a smoother user experience for touch input, which its integrated graphics permit. The panel offers a maximum contrast of 1300:1 and comes with sRGB and Vivid color profiles that we can load from the Windows display properties. It is also compatible with Dolby Vision and Dolby Vision IQ content.

The touch input of the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 offers a 10-point response similar to that of a smartphone, although not as direct. This version features Gorilla Glass 5 protection glass, improving the security compared to the previous generation. For an improved experience, such as for artistic design, the Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2 touch pen with Bluetooth connectivity is an excellent addition. It offers 4096 levels of pressure, zero-force handwriting input, rechargeable battery, and weighs only 13g. It feels comfortable, albeit slightly thicker than a pen. However, the screen could be more tablet-like for an even better experience.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 full review

Keyboard, touchpad, and webcam.

The integrated sound of the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 has improved in quality, maintaining its configuration of 2 downward-facing Omnisonic speakers compatible with Dolby Atmos. It offers perfectly balanced sound with high volumes and acceptable bass presence, but the most notable aspect is its clarity, as demonstrated in the demo recording. It is fully enjoyable for cinematic content.

The keyboard of the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 remains the same as the previous model, utilizing an ISO distribution in Spanish with a full-size Enter key. The spacious 16x16mm island-style keys are slightly concave, making typing easier, with a well-positioned keyboard where the touchpad does not interfere with typing. The membrane is of excellent quality, with short travel, silent and padded end of travel, and no sinking sensation. The scissor mechanism implemented in the keys creates a smooth and firm grip, and there are white backlighting and various brightness levels for nighttime use.

The touchpad on the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 is the same as last year, measuring 115mm in width and 77mm in depth, delivering an impeccable user experience with a silky surface, firm attachment system without looseness or strange noises, and integrated white and silent buttons.

The webcam on this laptop offers a pixelated and fair image quality for video calls, recording at 720p and 30 FPS. However, there is an IR sensor for facial recognition in Windows Hello and TPM 2.0 for hardware-level encryption. The laptop features far-field capture pattern microphones on both sides, providing good quality audio, but without noise cancellation.

Internal features and hardware

Regarding internal features and hardware, the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 has abandoned low-power AMD processors and has opted for 12th generation Intel processors. The CPU is updated to the Intel Alder Lake architecture, with the 13.5″ model available with the Intel Core i5-1235U and i7-1255U versions, and the 15″ model only equipped with the i7-1255U.

The model we are analyzing has the i5, consisting of 2 P-cores at 4.4 GHz and 8 E-cores at 3.3 GHz, with a total of 12 processing threads, 12 MB L3 cache, and 15W PBP expandable to 55W in turbo mode. The integrated Iris Xe graphics have 80 execution units at 1.2 GHz.

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 comes with 8GB of LPDDR5X RAM running at 5200 MHz, which we feel is a bit tight. We recommend choosing the 16GB model if we plan to use it for more demanding tasks. The storage configuration options are 256GB or 512GB, and we suggest selecting the higher capacity. If we opt for the 15″ laptop, there is a third option with 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage, which should also be available on the smaller device.

The heatsink design on the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 is similar to the previous generation, with a single turbine-type fan that draws in air from the rear and equally expels it through the same. Two copper pipes run from the cold plate to the finned block. Its performance is correct, and it operates silently. We will analyze its performance and study the results later.

Battery life

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 retains the same 47.4Wh Lithium Polymer battery as the 15-inch model. The manufacturer claims an optimistic 18 hours of battery life for the basic version. The device can be powered by a small 65W adapter through the Surface Connect port, although Thunderbolt 4 also supports charging.

Our tests yielded an estimated 12 hours of battery life with the brightness set at 35%, keyboard off, and power-saving mode enabled, while editing this article. We believe it is unlikely to reach those 18 hours no matter how efficient we are, but the result is still better than the one obtained on the 2022 model with an AMD CPU. We are satisfied with the result.

Final thoughts about the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5

Our final thoughts on the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 are that it maintains the quality that we have come to expect from Microsoft laptops. While it does not convert into a tablet, it has good touch input on its screen and is compatible with Bluetooth pens like the Slim Pen 2. The design of the device remains the same as the 2022 model, which we consider to be one of the best in terms of quality and construction in the segment. However, the inward-sloping sides can make connecting the Surface Connect port and charging the device a bit uncomfortable.

We appreciate the robustness of its screen with the implementation of Gorilla Glass, and the peripherals are comfortable and of high quality. The addition of Thunderbolt 4 to the device’s scarce wired connectivity is a significant improvement. Although the screen is good, the calibration results were better last year for the 15″ version, and its 60 Hz refresh rate is now outdated.

Microsoft has chosen efficient Intel CPUs for the 2023 models, although the i5 on this device may struggle with some demanding tasks. We would recommend the i7 version with 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage for more advanced use or better longevity in performance. Both temperature and noise generation are under control, thanks to the CPU’s factory limitation, which is necessary for such a thin and small device.

While Microsoft products still have an improvable performance/price ratio, design, finishes, touchscreen, and integration with the operating system are a plus for the user. If you’re looking for a manageable and lightweight laptop for daily use, it’s certainly recommended, but for use in design or demanding applications, it’s not a recommended option.

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